The Look Of Eagles is what every great race horse has according to Walter Brennan in Kentucky. It's that gleam in the eye that you see in any athlete, human or equine, that tells you he's got heart. In the case of horses, heart enough to go the distance of a mile and a quarter, the set distance of the Kentucky Derby.
The third Oscar for Best Supporting Actor went to Walter Brennan for Kentucky as the 34 year old Brennan made up with white hair plays unreconstructed rebel Peter Goodwin, grand uncle to Loretta Young. This film set a standard for Brennan who played very little, but old codgers after that.
The leads in Kentucky are Loretta Young and Richard Greene who was no doubt brought to 20th Century Fox as a backup for Tyrone Power. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the film was developed as something for Power originally who co-starred with Young on a few occasions.
The two are three generations removed from the Civil War which split the families apart. In a prologue to the modern story, the head of the Dillon family sides with the Union and the head of the Goodwin clan goes with the Confederacy. Later on Douglass Dumbrill head of the Dillon family now an officer in the Union Army raids the Goodwin farm and the head of the Goodwin family is shot and killed and the thoroughbred horses they were raising are taken as war contraband. Young Bobs Watson sees all this and he grows up to be Walter Brennan.
When Greene speeds by in a car and catches sight of Loretta Young on a horse, it's love at first sight, but a forbidden love because of the family feud. Greene and Young have a rocky road ahead, not helped by the fact that he gives up the banking business and goes to work for the Goodwins under an alias because she won't give him the right time of a day if she knows he's one of the hated enemy.
The 1938 Kentucky Derby is worked into the plot where Calumnet Farms Lawrin ridden by Eddie Arcaro wins and Arcaro also gets a line in the film. Lawrin stands in for the three year old colt owned by one of the feuding families. But the win is also clouded by tragedy.
A lot of black players get into Kentucky, but sad to say in some truly stereotypical roles. It's probably why Kentucky is rarely seen these days. I hadn't seen it myself in about 35 years.
Still for Brennan's dominating performance and Loretta Young at her prettiest you can't go wrong with Kentucky.
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